a/n: Will (eventually) be slash (RemusxSirius). Apologies if that offends you. Oh, and disclaimer: the Marauders, Harry Potter, etc., obviously don't belong to me and I only wish I were making money off this.
The Spy Game
One: Meet the Marauders
"Sirius Black!" his mother admonished. "Your dinner is to be eaten, not played with."
Sirius pouted slightly, muttering an apology for flinging the forkful of peas at his friend, but not before pointing out that James had started it by slipping that ice cube down the back of Sirius' shirt.
James Potter. He had been Sirius Black's best mate forever. Well, all right, it had really been six years and a quarter, but Sirius had decided that because they were six and a half years old, six years and a quarter counted as forever.
"Oh, you two." Mrs. Black sighed and shook her head. "Always getting up to something, eh? Like a couple of little marauders, you are." She gave her son and his best friend of six years and a quarter an indulgent smile. "Absolutely incorrigible."
Marauders. Sirius didn't know exactly what that meant, but he he liked it. He liked it a lot. Sirius Black and James Potter: Marauders. He looked across the kitchen table at a grinning James and knew that he was thinking something much along those same lines.
Mrs. Black stood up, carrying the dishes to the sink. "Why don't you boys go outside and play for a while?" She turned to Sirius. "But keep it down, all right? Your brother's taking a nap."
She bit her lip. "You've asked me this already, dear. He's on a business trip."
"But shouldn't he be home now?"
His mother smiled. "Don't be silly, Sirius. He just left the other day. Now go on outside."
"Marauders!" James exclaimed once outside. "Did you hear that Sirius? We're the Marauders!"
Sirius laughed and cartwheeled across the lawn. "Well," he said, "what should we do?"
His friend's eyes lit up. "The Spy Game!"
Sirius grinned. The Spy Game was by far the duo's favorite free-time activity. A typical game consisted of James and Sirius creeping into the bushes of one of their neighbors and peering into said neighbor's home through the first-story windows until the two were sure they'd been seen, at which point they would duck their heads, crawl out of the bushes, and sprint back home giggling like mad.
Sirius poked his head inside the house to make sure his mother was occupied with the dishes before giving James a thumbs-up. The two of them made their way to the front yard, where they scoped out the possibilities.
Directly across the street was the Potter's house. No good, Sirius thought. They could spy on James' parents any day.
On the Potters' right-hand side were the Evans. The Evans had two daughters, both of whom Sirius suspected were infected with dangerous cooties. James, interestingly, seemed to suspect only the elder of aforementioned cooties. Even so, while the girls were fun to spy on once in a while, neither James nor Sirius typically dared to venture too close for prolonged periods of time. Just in case.
On the other side of the Potters were the Snapes—also fun to watch every so often, but their son was a right annoying brat. Greasy, too. If they weren't busy annoying him, Sirius and James tried to avoid him at all costs.
On the Blacks' right and left were, respectively, Old Man Flamel and Big Man Hagrid, neither of whom was much fun to spy on, and at the end of the street next to the Evans was the Spooky Ghost House. The mailbox was always empty (the boys had checked several times) and the curtains were always shut. Clearly, it was haunted. James had even sworn to Sirius that he had heard Spooky Ghost Noises coming from that house on several occasions.
"Well?" Sirius asked. "Who's it gonna be? Evans? Snape?"
"No, I don't think so," muttered James.
"You're not chickening out!"
"Of course not!" James cried. "I just have a better idea."
"Yeah?" Sirius challenged.
"Yeah," he answered. "See, we're the Marauders, aren't we?"
"Well, do you know what Marauders do?" he asked.
Sirius frowned a little. "Erm—well—they do Marauder stuff, yeah?"
"Well, I know what they do," James continued, puffing up proudly. "Marauders do all sorts of dangerous things. Marauders are brave—they're fearless!"
Sirius was pretty sure that his best mate was just making this up, but he nonetheless liked the train of thought.
"Fearless?" Sirius asked. "Then, if we're the Marauders, we must be the bravest of everyone!"
"Yeah! And you know where us really brave Marauders go to play the Spy Game?"
Sirius grinned deviously. "The Spooky Ghost House!" he shouted.
"Race you there!"
The Spooky Ghost House lived up to its namesake. In the dim light of the near-dusk summer evening, Sirius could see all sorts of ghouls and ghosties shifting within the cool shadows of the nearby trees, which seemed gnarled and twisted almost comically when compared to the other straight rows of trees in the neighborhood. He and James crawled into a few of the scrawny, dead bushes that were lined around the perimeter of the house and looked through a dirty window.
"The curtain's closed," James whispered.
"The curtains are always closed!"
"Well, how are we gonna look in, then?"
"Let's find another window."
They found another window and another window and another window, but, after circling the entire house, the Marauders had determined that the curtains of every single window were drawn. At least on the first level.
"We could check upstairs," Sirius suggested.
"Are you mad? How do you plan on getting up there?"
"Well, we don't have to go actually go up there. Let's just check and see if there are any windows we can look through."
James rolled his eyes. "How are we s'posed to look through the upstairs windows from all the way down here?"
"We'll figure it out, won't we? C'mon, let's just check first and then we'll find a way to get up there and look in if we see any windows without stupid curtains."
There were, it turned out, exactly two windows without stupid curtains.
The first appeared to be an attic window—it was small and round, and slightly higher than the second story windows. There was nothing but darkness behind the window, and Sirius and James deemed it as stupid as the others. The second, however, proved to be of much greater potential.
The window was large and square, on the second story of the house, and James and Sirius discovered that by climbing a massive willow tree—probably the only living plant in the entire yard—they were able not only to get a clear view of the window, but to hide themselves in the drooping branches.
From what Sirius could tell, the window led to someone's bedroom—or, at the very least, what had once been someone's bedroom. The walls were a dingy, used-to-be-white color, and there was a small cot in the corner nearest the window. The bedspread was so patched up with seemingly random scraps of faded fabric that Sirius couldn't tell what the original color had been.
"James," he whispered.
"Think someone lives there?"
"I dunno," James said. "Didn't think anybody lived in that house."
And then Sirius saw it. Hair. A tawny color, somewhere between blond and red and brown. And it was most definitely attached to a head.
Sirius blinked and leaned closer, trying to catch another glimpse of the mysterious head of hair.
The curtains closed.
"Shoot!" James whispered hurriedly. "I think somebody in there saw us!"
The two new Marauders jumped from the tree and raced down the street toward Sirius' house.
"Hello, boys," Sirius' mother greeted as he and James entered the house. She was seated at the kitchen table next to a man Sirius didn't recognize. "Sirius, James, this is Mr. Malfoy."
The man brushed a lock of graying blond hair from his face and smiled at Sirius and James. "Hello, boys," he echoed. "Pleasure to meet you. You know, I've got a son about your age. A few years older, I suppose."
"Why don't you two go upstairs to Sirius' bedroom?" his mum suggested. "I wasn't expecting you boys back so soon, and Mr. Malfoy and I have some matters to discuss."
Sirius noticed that his mother's blouse was a bit askew, and her mild voice had a slight edge to it. He shrugged. "Okay," he replied and tugged James up the stairs and to his bedroom.
"You see that boy?" James asked once they had reached Sirius' bedroom.
"Yeah—in the Spooky Ghost House."
"Err—" Sirius said. "Well, I saw hair."
"Well, yeah," James responded. "Me too. But it was definitely a boy's hair."
"Why not a girl's?"
Sirius contemplated this for a moment. "But," he finally said, "the hair was still sort of shaggy. Kind of like Mrs. Evans'. You sure it was a boy?"
"It wasn't Mrs. Evans, was it?"
No. No, Sirius supposed not.
"I want to talk to him," Sirius announced. "Maybe he could be a Marauder, too."
James pushed his glasses up the bridge up of his nose. "You're mad," he said. "There's no way we could talk to him. He lives in the Spooky Ghost House!"
"So?" he demanded. "We're brave, aren't we? We'll just go knock on the door and ask to talk to him or something."
"You're out of your mind, Sirius!"
Yes. Yes, Sirius supposed so.
"We're going, James. I want to to talk to him."
The next morning found Sirius on the Potters' doorstep bright and early, poking away at the bell with an eager grin on his face.
"Hello, dear," Mrs. Potter greeted as she answered the door, still donning her nightdress and curlers. "James said that you and he had something special planned today?"
"Yes'm," Sirius responded, nodding.
Mrs. Potter sighed, coughing lightly into her hand. "This something special doesn't involve the usual tormenting of the neighbors, does it?"
He tried to appear abashed, but was unable to stifle his excited grin. "No ma'am. Of course not."
"I'll hold you to that." She smiled and coughed again. "James!" she called. "Sirius is here! Downstairs, now!"
James clambered down the stairs, mussing up his already unkempt hair and knocking his glasses off his face in the process.
"Bye Mum, be back later!" James exclaimed, picking up his glasses and dragging his friend out the door.
"You know," James said when they were outside, "I thought the idea was crazy at first, but now I can't wait. This has got to be the bravest thing we've ever done."
Sirius nodded enthusiastically, and the two boys walked with nervous anticipation toward the Spooky Ghost House.
The door was wooden and foreboding, its off-white paint peeling away from the corners in little strips. Of all the doors Sirius had come across in his six and a half years, this was surely the most terrifying—more terrifying, in fact, than the doors to church, the library, andthe dentist's office combined.
"Ready?" he asked James. Before the other boy could respond, though, he brought his fist onto the worn-down wood and, without giving himself a chance to realize what exactly he was doing and promptly run home screaming, pounded. And he pounded again. And again and again.
"Pss—Sirius! Maybe no one's home?"
"But—but we saw him. Just yesterday!"
"Look—look there!" James pointed to the window to the right of the door.
It happened so quickly Sirius almost missed it—but he didn't, which was all that mattered. He didn't miss the tiny white hand or the shaggy red-gold-brown hair or the nervous fluttering of the drapes.
"He's home, James!"
Encouraged if not slightly terrified, Sirius knocked twice more.
After this came the voices. Or, at least, Sirius assumed they were voices. There was the rumbling of a baritone, gruff and dull and consistent, a man's voice, interspersed with the high and sharp staccato exclamations of a woman. And then silence. No—not silence. Sirius heard a tiny, whimpering sound from inside, quiet and broken and trembling like a kicked puppy. The boy.
And then, then there was silence.
"Sirius," James whispered, "maybe this wasn't such a good—"
The door cracked open just wide enough for the head of a not-quite-middle-aged man to poke out.
"Whaddaya want?" he snarled. His hair was tawny, colored and cut like the boy's, only Sirius also noticed streaks of gray throughout the man's. Though the time was around eight thirty in the morning, he had an apparent five o'clock shadow. The man might have been quite handsome, though, had his face not been set into such a twisted scowl.
"We—err—" James stuttered. "We're your neighbors. Just saying hello."
The man narrowed his eyes, studying both James and Sirius as if searching for hidden weapons of mass destruction. "Well, hello to you too, neighbors," he growled. Apparently he had deemed them weapon-free. "Now be good neighbors and kindly vacate the premises."
What? Sirius bit his lip in disappointment. They didn't even get to say hello to the boy? He wasn't sure why, exactly, but Sirius was quite compelled to meet this mysterious little boy.
"But—" he began.
"Yes sir!" James squeaked. "Goodbye!"
He then grabbed Sirius and ran. Sirius heard the door slam behind them.
"James!" Sirius exclaimed as they walked back to the Potters' house. "I wanted to meet the boy."
James huffed. "We weren't going to get to meet the boy anyway, Sirius. Did you see that guy? He was big. And scary! We're lucky we made a break for it like that."
"Yeah," Sirius said, puffing up a bit. "Yeah, he was pretty scary, wasn't he? But we were brave, eh?"
"Yeah." James grinned. "Yeah, we were real brave."
"Race you back!"
Sirius sat awake in bed, watching the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling and thinking about the little boy in the Spooky Ghost House. What was his name? How old was he? Why did he live in that scary house with that scary man?
Sirius wanted to be his friend. Maybe, Sirius thought, he was brave too. Anyone who lived in that scary house with that scary man had to be at least a little brave. Maybe he could be a Marauder too.
If only Sirius could talk to him.
Sirius was bored.
James was grounded for something or other.
Regulus was only four and no fun to play with.
Sirius was bored.
He remembered the little boy in the Spooky Ghost House.
Sirius wouldn't be bored much longer.
Plink, plink, plink.
Sirius continued to toss pebbles at the window from where he was perched on the tree branch. He wasn't quite sure how effective this method of communication would be, but he'd seen it once in one of his mum's movies, and it had seemed like a pretty cool idea.
He just hoped he didn't break the window.
Plink, plink, plink.
The boy hadn't come to the window yet, and Sirius was running out of pebbles.
Plink, plink, plink.
And there he was. The boy opened the window and looked around, apparently confused.
"Hello!" Sirius called loudly from the tree branch.
The boy's head jerked toward the tree, his eyes wide and scared. "Shh!" He placed his index finger over his lips.
"Sorry," Sirius said more quietly. From his spot on the branch, Sirius was about six feet from the window and had a good view of the boy's face. His petite and slightly angular was emphasized by the sunken cheeks and pale complexion. His eyes were a shade of brown somewhere between chocolate and ginger, big and bright and warm, but not quite as young as they should be. Underneath his eyes were shadows the color of fresh bruises.
"Who are you?" he asked, and Sirius recognized the meek voice immediately.
"Sirius. Sirius Black. I'm your neighbor from just down the road there. Who are you?"
"Remus," the boy responded in a whisper, casting his eyes on the ground almost three meters below them.
"It's nice to meet you, Remus Lupin. Would you like to be a Marauder?"
The boy—Remus—looked up. "A what?"
"Isn't th-that a thief?"
"Me and James are the Marauders right now, but you could be one too, if you like. You have to be really brave and stuff."
"Brilliant!" Sirius exclaimed a little too loudly, causing Remus' eyes to quickly shift left and right. "I have to be off now, but I'll be back later!"
Sirius jumped out of the tree and sprinted home, wearing a wide smile.
"Are you kidding?"
Sirius shook his head.
"You mean you actually met the kid in the Spooky Ghost House?"
"And you didn't take me?"
Sirius frowned. "Sorry, James! You know I would've, but you were grounded that day."
"Well," James huffed, "you could have waited or something."
Sirius raised an eyebrow.
James raised an eyebrow.
They burst into laughter.
"Fine, fine. But next time, Sirius Black, you had better take me."
Plink, plink, plink.
Remus was at the window.
"Hello!" Sirius called as the other boy pried the window open.
"I've brought a friend today."
"Oh?" Remus looked up with a shy sort of interest.
Sirius nodded. "This is James Potter," he said, motioning towards the bespectacled boy sitting next to him on the branch. "James," Sirius continued, "this is Remus Lupin."
"Hello, Remus," James responded with a friendly smile.
"H-hello," the boy said in that timid little voice.
"You going to school?" James asked.
"Y'know—school. To learn stuff. First day of first grade is tomorrow. You going into first grade too? How old are you, eh?"
"I—I'm—" Remus paused and bit his lip. "I'm six years old."
"Well then," Sirius said, "you're just the age to be going into first grade with us. Me and James are six and half, both of us."
"Maybe we'll all be in the same class!" James exclaimed, excited.
"I—err—" The boy in the window shook his hair out of his eyes. "I don't go to school."
"No school?" James raised his eyebrows in surprise. "Then how are you gonna learn stuff? You know, stuff like—counting by fives and reading books without pictures. How are you gonna learn it?"
"Oh, please," Sirius cut in. "I can already count by fives all the way to sixty. And I've read at least three books without pictures."
Remus smiled slightly, showing a few teeth and a few gaps where teeth had apparently been lost. Sirius wasn't sure what he'd done to make the boy smile, but he felt a tiny bubble of pride swell up in his chest.
"You must be v-very pre-precocious," Remus said quietly.
"What?" James asked.
"I said he m-must be very pre-precocious."
Sirius didn't know what preprecocious meant. He did know that it was a very big word and that Remus was smiling.
"Are you making fun of me?" Sirius asked.
Remus frowned. "I—"
"This is great, James! He's making fun of me!" Sirius smiled widely and laughed a little. "James and me are best mates," he said to Remus. "We make fun of each other all the time. It's what best mates do, you know."
Remus looked up and grinned just a little less shyly. Sirius felt the bubble again.
"You'll make a great Marauder!" Sirius declared.
"We have to go now," James stated, tugging on Sirius' sleeve. "But we'll come back real soon, promise!"
Remus' eyes widened briefly before he responded. "Erm—" he said. "Erm—sure. Bye."
And then the window was closed and the boy gone.
"C'mon!" James said, jumping out of tree. "Mum'll have my hide if I'm not back by dark."
"Mum!" Sirius called, swinging open the front door. "Mum, guess what me and James did today! Just guess!"
"Sirius!" his mother called as she hurried down the stairs to the door. "What are you doing home before dark?"
"I thought, you know, I'd be good today." He smiled. "First day of school tomorrow and all. Plus, James had to go home."
His mother sighed and bent down, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "Mummy has a guest over, so why don't you go to your room and play for a while?"
"Mhmm. You remember Mr. Zabini?"
Sirius nodded. "The one who brought me a lollipop?"
He mother smiled. "That's the one. Maybe you can say hello to him later."
"Okay. Where's Reg?"
"Oh. Well, when will Daddy be home?"
"He's—I've already told you, Sirius. He won't be back for a while."
"But when, Mum?"
"Not for a while, dear. Just be patient."
Sirius pouted. "All right," he said and trudged up the stairs to his bedroom.
James Potter liked the first grade. A lot.
He had been put in the same room as his best mate Sirius and that pretty Lily Evans girl, and also a nice boy named Peter Pettigrew. He and Sirius hadn't been sure about Peter at first.
Then Peter had dropped a straw on the nasty Snape boy's desk right before hitting the teacher with a massive spitball himself. The Marauders had then grown quite a bit warmer toward Peter.
Snape had gotten rapped on the knuckles with a ruler, plus he'd had to sit in the corner for fifteen whole minutes. But it served him right, for being so greasy and scowling all the time and never talking to anybody.
James and Sirius had laughed while Peter grinned sort of deviously. The original two Marauders then decided that Peter would be a good Marauder after all.
By lunchtime on the first day of first grade, James had decided that the school year would not, in fact, be a complete waste of time. He decided it might even be fun. There was just one problem: Sirius. He was moping. James could only guess as to why he was moping, but, after having been best friends with Sirius for forever, it was clear to James that he was moping.
And that was just going to have to stop.
Sirius Black wasn't quite thrilled with first grade. Not quite.
He was standing in the lunch line on his first day when he felt something cold and slightly wet bump his shoulder. He turned around.
"James!" he exclaimed to the boy standing behind him and nudging him with a carton of milk. "That's cold! Stop."
"Had to get your attention." James grinned. "What's the matter?"
"What do you mean?" Sirius asked.
James rolled his eyes. "You're moping. Duh."
"I just—I kind of—" Sirius stopped. What should he say? He was missing the boy he'd only even seen a handful of times? The boy James had only just met the day before?
"It's Remus," James stated.
"Err—yeah. Well, I mean, I was just hoping we'd see him at school. That's all."
"Well, you don't have to mope about it. He said he didn't go to school, remember?"
"Yeah, I know, but I still—"
"Exactly! So no worries. We'll just see him after school. Now hurry up. I wanna get a seat next to Lily Evans."
Sirius made a face. "That's gross, mate."
James stuck out his tongue.
Sirius wished Remus were at school. Then he could sit next to Remus with James on his other side, and James could sit next to Sirius with Lily on his other side. Instead, James would sit next to Lily with Sirius on his other side and Sirius would probably have to sit next to that Peter Pettigrew boy.
Sirius would admit, though, that Pettigrew's spitball trick had been a pretty good laugh. The boy was okay, all in all.
Sirius sighed. He'd visit Remus as soon as he got home.
Sirius Black and James Potter were six and a half years old. Remus Lupin was six years old—no halves.
Sirius Black and James Potter liked to look in windows and watch people. Remus Lupin liked to look out windows and watch people.
They were different, the young partners in crime and the little boy recluse.
But not very.
Remus smiled to himself and peered out his dingy window at the old giant willow, which he had recently dubbed Sirius' Tree. He just hoped he hadn't named it too soon.
a/n: Reviews to me, love to you. It's a good deal.